Apple said on Tuesday that its latest iPhones will be produced from recycled rare earth materials, as part of a stronger environmental initiative that also has geopolitical implications.
Announced as part of a series of sustainability actions, Apple said the move builds on previous initiatives, including its commitment to become “100% carbon neutral” in all aspects of its business. .
Apple Chief Environmental Officer Lisa Jackson told an online event announcing the new iPhone 12 handsets that “for the first time, we are using 100% recycled rare earth elements in all magnets. , including camera, haptics and MagSafe (connectors) “.
The announcement comes amid growing concerns over e-waste from billions of smartphones as consumers switch to new models, and with growing political tensions over rare earth materials needed by many electronic devices.
Activists have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of rare earth mining, and some of the materials come from countries named for labor and human rights violations.
China, the scene of fatal mining accidents, has been in the spotlight for its dumping of toxic waste in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, as Beijing boosts global production of rare earth elements.
Amid China-U.S. Trade tensions, China has threatened to cut off supplies of some items, raising fears of shortages.
According to the US Geological Survey, China has the largest deposits of rare earths in the world, with 44 million tonnes of reserves. Vietnam and Brazil each have 22 million tonnes.
Difficulties with American deposits have twice forced the closure of the only American mine, in Mountain Pass, California. Refining capacity is limited outside of China, analysts said.
Apple has also said it won’t include headphones or power adapters with the latest iPhones because most customers already own them. This will reduce manufacturing and make the boxes lighter to ship.
Jackson said the move was part of Apple’s efforts “to reduce waste and use less materials.”
Apple pledged in July to be carbon neutral across all of its businesses, including its manufacturing supply chain, by 2030, in a stepped-up effort to tackle climate change.
The tech giant, which is already carbon neutral for its corporate operations, said the move would have no climate impact for all of its devices sold.
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